United States District Court, D. Oregon
JAY D. WALKER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. RUSSO United States Magistrate Judge
Jay Walker brings this action for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
Title XVI Social Security Income (“SSI”) and
Title II Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
under the Social Security Act (“Act”). All
parties have consented to allow a Magistrate Judge enter
final orders and judgment in this case in accordance with
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons
set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed
and this case is dismissed.
February 27, 2012, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI,
alleging disability as of April 1, 2011. Tr. 193-202. His
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Tr. 129-36, 139-43. On September 18, 2014, a hearing was held
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”),
wherein plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified,
as did a vocational expert (“VE”). Tr. 44-70. On
November 14, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr.
19-32. After the Appeals Council denied his request for
review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-5.
August 31, 1966, plaintiff was 44 years old on the alleged
onset date and 48 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr.
50, 193. He graduated from high school and worked previously
as a commercial painter. Tr. 65-66, 215. Plaintiff alleges
disability due to diabetes, heart disease, high blood
pressure, and hand pain. Tr. 50-52, 214.
court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is
based on proper legal standards and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. Hammock
v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). The court must weigh “both the
evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusions.” Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable
interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the
Commissioner's interpretation is rational. Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant must
demonstrate an “inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected . . . to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner has established a five step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. First, the Commissioner
determines whether a claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert,
482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant
does not have a severe impairment, he is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
416.920(d). If so, the claimant is presumptively disabled; if
not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f). If the claimant can
work, he is not disabled; if he cannot perform past relevant
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. At step five,
the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform
other work existing in significant numbers in the national or
local economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the
Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
one of the five step sequential evaluation process outlined
above, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 21. At
step two, the ALJ determined the following impairments were
medically determinable and severe: “coronary artery
disease with a history of myocardial infarction;
hypertension; obesity; right shoulder capsulitis; and mild
carpal tunnel syndrome.” Id. At step three,
the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, either singly
or in combination, did not meet or equal the requirements of
a listed impairment. Tr. 24.
he did not establish presumptive disability at step three,
the ALJ continued to evaluate how plaintiff's impairments
affected his ability to work. The ALJ resolved that plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work, except that:
[he] is further limited to no more than occasional climbing
of ropes, ladders and scaffolds. He is limited to no more
than frequent reaching on the right, as well as frequent
bilateral handling, grasping, fingering and feeling. [He]
would also need to avoid concentrated ...